Former Nazi officers go on trial
20 April 2004
LA SPEZIA – A war crimes trial over the 1944 massacre by German Nazi officers of 560 civilians in a village near Florence was launched in Italy on Tuesday.
The victims of the extermination at Sant’Anna di Stazzema, believed to be an act of revenge against Italian partisans resisting German occupation during World War II, included many women and children. The bodies of the victims were then set on fire, according to witness accounts.
Evidence of the massacre only emerged 10 years ago, when prosecutors discovered a cabinet containing files detailing Italian inquiries into wartime atrocities.
Italian investigators have since identified and charged at least seven former officers of the elite Nazi military unit SS with taking part in the killings.
Three of them – Gerhard Sommer (82), Alfred Schonenberg (82) and Ludwig Sonntag (79) – were to be tried in absentia by a military tribunal in the town of La Spezia.
If convicted, they face house arrests for life in Italy. Italy is expected to seek their extradition from Germany once a sentence is reached. Meanwhile, German prosecutors are also conducting their own inquiry into the 12 August 1944 massacre, Italian judicial sources say.
“We hope finally that there will be justice,” Mauro Pieri, a 72-year-old survivor recently told the New York Times.
Several Nazi officers have been brought to trial in Italy over the past 10 years. In 1996, former SS captain Erich Priebke was found guilty of playing a major role in another 1944 massacre in Rome.
In October of last year, the same military tribunal in La Spezia ordered that a 94-year-old former Nazi officer named Karl Schiffmann should stand trial for a third 1944 massacre.
Subject: German news